Workplace Goofs

How Not to Decorate Your Desk

Cabin of officeIf you have an office job, you probably spend a lot of time sitting at your desk. And with so much time spent in one place, it’s natural to want your space to reflect your style and make you feel comfortable. After all, your cubicle, office, or workspace is basically your home-away-from-home.

But when it comes to decorating a space you don’t technically own, there are some do’s and don’ts. In fact, if you’re decorating is too heavy on the “don’ts,” it may be costing you your reputation.

According to Barbara Pachter, author of New Rules at Work, “It’s hard to function in a messy office, and people assume your office chaos will spill over to their project and their files will be lost in your mess.”

To avoid this workspace blunder, take a look at these design tips and tricks.


17 Tips for an Outstanding New Year

ThinkstockPhotos-614739734The new year has officially begun, which means it’s time to make sure you’re focused on your goals for the year. Since this is the 17th year of this century, here are 17 tips to help you have an outstanding year:

  1. Don’t procrastinate. If you put off the things you need to accomplish, you may realize 2018 is right around the corner before you’ve even started.
  2. Invest in your wardrobe. Whether you’re looking for a job, or you’re already part of the workforce, owning a quality outfit can set you apart from the competition. Consider investing in a suit for interviews, or durable shoes for the workplace.
  3. Learn a new skill. It’s never too late to learn something new, and there are countless ways to add to your skillset. Think of the skills you’d like to learn, then take advantage of the Internet’s many educational resources.
  4. Clean up your social media profiles. When’s the last time you looked back at your Facebook or Twitter posts and photos from years ago? Chances are, there may be photos, statuses, or tags that don’t paint you in the best light. And since potential employers often look at your social media accounts when considering you for a job, be sure to represent yourself in the most professional way possible.
  5. Learn from your co-workers. There may be times when your company could benefit from allowing you to cross-train or shadow someone on the job. Consider asking your supervisor for the opportunity to learn from others.
  6. Take a class. Many communities offer courses in subjects like computer programs, marketing tips, and interview techniques. Check out opportunities available in your area, and sign up for a class today.
  7. Join a professional organization. Depending on your career path, there may be a professional organization you can join. These organizations are designed to help you network and further your skills, and they’re also a great addition to your resume.
  8. Create a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, what are you waiting for? There are thousands of recruiters on LinkedIn right now, and they may be looking for candidates just like you!
  9. Gather your references. Maintaining an updated list of references is a good practice, even if you’re not actively job searching. Since you meet new people every day and relationships often change, ensure that your list is up-to-date before you need to use it.
  10. Send a thank-you note. If you are in the job search process, you know it’s important to send a thank-you note after an interview. But, what if you’re not currently looking? You can still send notes of appreciation to those who make a difference to you. Consider sending a thank-you note to your supervisor, an old friend, or a co-worker who helped you on a project. Everybody likes to feel appreciated.
  11. Make a plan for stress relief. Sometimes, stress is unavoidable. But, you can take steps to lessen the impact stress has on you. Think of ways that help you manage stress when it hits. Maybe it’s meditation, yoga, or exercise. Perhaps reading is relaxing for you. Find what helps you through tough times before they happen.
  12. Do something for yourself. Life moves quickly, and everyone has busy days. In all of that busyness, you may find that you haven’t taken any time for yourself. Stop for a moment and do something just for you. Go for a walk, buy yourself a coffee, read a book, or watch a movie.
  13. Get active. We all know how important exercise is to our overall health, but many of us can’t find the time to make it a priority. Even if you sit at a desk all day, there are still ways to be active. Try simple desk exercises, or go for a walk on your lunch break.
  14. Give back. Volunteering is great for so many reasons. First and foremost, it’s an excellent way to give back to your community and help those in need. It makes you feel good, helps you meet new people, and network. Often, you can learn a new skill, and of course, volunteering looks great on your resume. Find causes that matter to you and explore how to volunteer your time this year.
  15. Become a planner. Some people are planners, others are more spontaneous. Whether or not you like to structure your day beforehand, make it a habit to get your plans on paper. If you have goals you want to accomplish, write them in your calendar. Jot down important appointments, and keep track of your successful days so you can look back at them later.
  16. Start a budget. The term “budget” often comes with a negative association, but the truth is, being financially responsible is important to your success. Having funds available in an emergency is essential, and you can start on that path today. Review all of your debts and payments, calculate how much you need to save to reach financial goals or start an emergency fund, and begin the process of saving.
  17. Become (or find) a mentor. If you’re new to the workforce, you may feel overwhelmed. There’s certainly a lot to learn. Thankfully, there are millions of others who have gone before you, and it’s easy to find a mentor who can guide you on your career path. Likewise, if you’re experienced in a certain subject, you may seek out mentees to take under your wing.

These are just 17 of the many ways to help make your new year outstanding. Get started today and good luck in 2017!

What additional tips do you have for starting the year off right? Share with us in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.


5 Guidelines for Personal Cell Phone Use

cell phones at workMost of you probably own a cell phone and bring it to work with you so that you’re able to stay in contact with your family and friends, and have it just in case of emergencies. While some workplaces have personal cell phone usage guidelines in place, some may not enforce the rules, and others may not have any rules at all. So, to avoid a major cell phone faux pas at work, here are five guidelines you should follow regardless of your type of job or position.

1) Use it sparingly
The best place to keep your cell phone at work is out of reach, especially if you get distracted easily. You can keep it in your purse, desk drawer, or vehicle, and make your personal calls before or after work, during breaks, and at lunch. Interruptions can reduce productivity for you and your teammates and increase risks of accidents and injuries on the job.

2) Keep it quiet
If you have to have your phone at work, turn the ringer off or use the vibrate mode. The ring of a cell phone can cause mistakes and cause you and your co-workers to lose focus. Turning your cell phone ringer off will limit the distractions that you create for yourself and others.

3) Talk in private
If you have to take a personal call on your cell phone while you’re at work, try to find a place away from your co-workers so you can have your conversation in private without disturbing others. Try using a break room or unoccupied conference room, or step outside. Most people don’t want to hear a conversation between you and your significant other, children, doctor, or bank.

When you’re unable to step away from your work area to take your phone call, keep your voice down. This will keep your conversation private and limit the distractions for others by not drawing attention to yourself.

4) Keep it out of the restroom
Don’t use your cell phone in the restroom as a private or convenient place to make a call. No one wants to hear your conversation while they’re in the bathroom, and chances are, the person on the receiving end of your call doesn’t want to hear flushing toilets or running water.

Respect the privacy of others and keep your cell phone conversations out of the bathroom. End your call before you go into the restroom, offer to return the phone call later, or find a better-suited place for you to make your call.

5) Don’t use your phone during meetings
Using your cell phone during meetings will only distract you from the conversation and make you appear uninterested or disrespectful. If you’re headed off to a meeting, keep your cell phone at your desk and turn it off or use the silent mode. It’s okay to keep your cell phone in your briefcase or purse, but make sure you won’t be tempted to pull it out and use it.

If you’re expecting an important phone call while you’re in a meeting, make sure to notify your co-workers that you’re expecting a call and that you may need to step outside to answer it. Only do this in emergency situations, keep your phone on vibrate, and exit the meeting before you begin your conversation.

Whether we’re at home or work, cell phones give us the capability to keep in touch with family, friends, and co-workers. You can use your cell phone at home however you wish, but while you’re at work, make sure to follow your employer’s guidelines for cell phone use, and be respectful of others even if your employer doesn’t provide rules. Then, practice workplace cell phone etiquette by using these five guidelines to maintain a professional image.

Own Up to Your Mistake

Ownup_march2012_webHas anyone ever told you that if you aren’t making mistakes at work you probably aren’t blazing any new trails either? While you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind in the effort of progress, there is a chance that no matter how prepared and organized you try to be you’re going to make a mistake at work. But it doesn’t have to ruin your day or your career. You just need to handle it properly.

Be honest and quick.

Nothing good will come from covering up your mistake, so it’s best to admit the error as soon as possible. And, unless running around screaming about the problem will save lives or dollars, you need to alert your manager and those impacted in a cool, calm, and collected manner. Depending on the timeliness of the error you may be able to schedule a meeting with everyone in a few hours or you may need to circle up in the next 15 minutes. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, try not to interrupt other meetings, it can just create more chaos

It’s important to remember that you need to admit your mistake and provide some explanation as to why it occurred. Clearly explain what happened and providing any additional support, research, or correspondence to clarify the mistake is a good first step in communicating the situation. Questions will arise around your mistake, so remember to answer honestly and, if you don’t know the answer, resist the urge to make something up. It’s better to say you don’t know rather than to lie. Now is not the time to lay blame elsewhere or dwell on elements outside of your control.

Have a solution prepared.

Be ready to move forward with a proposed solution. When you’re focusing on calmly presenting your mistake, take a moment to think through the problem you’ve created and what solutions you can offer. If you have time, check into details like availability times of others you may need to inform after you’ve discussed the problem with your manager, any expenses that may arise from the error, or past protocol if this error has occurred at the company before. Don’t stall gathering information and solutions, but try to be as prepared as possible so that you can have a productive discussion on a solution. Spending a few extra minutes to get answers to the questions you know your boss will ask is better than rushing ahead and having to go back in a second time with the answers.

The first steps you can take to rebuild trust within your workplace after a mistake is handling the situation professionally. As you’d expect, trying to cover up your mistake or redirecting blame will not serve you well. Do you have any examples to share on effectively moving forward after a mistake?


By Rachel Rudisill

Safety Squeeze – Identify and Avoid Pinch Points

Pinchpoint_march2012_webWith St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, most people will be sporting their favorite green attire to avoid getting pinched on March 17. To most of us, a pinch isn’t taken very seriously. We remember pinching the cute girl or boy growing up in school, getting our cheeks pinched by our relatives who came from out of town, or getting a “pinch to grow an inch” during a birthday celebration.

But, for many of those working today, getting pinched can become very serious injuries called pinch-points. A pinch-point is when a person or part of a person’s body is caught between moving parts of a machine, between the moving and stationary parts of a machine, or between material and any part of the machine. With these easy guides, you can know what a pinch-point is and how to keep them from happening.

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Pinch

Pinch-points can be as small as a pair of pliers slipping and pinching a hand causing a blood blister, to being crushed against a wall by a truck that was backing up. This hazard can happen at any time at the workplace.

A pinch-point injury on the job can be seriously disabling, even causing amputation or death. A serious pinch point injury can put a heavy emotional and financial burden on you or your family. If there is a place where equipment is transmitting energy, there is a potential pinch-point danger with that equipment.

There’s No Easy Way Out

Often pinch-point injuries are the result of improperly trained workers who don’t realize the dangers of machinery, or take shortcuts to get the work done more quickly. Work can be stressful with deadlines and training new people, but it’s important to keep in mind the safety rules and mechanisms that were put in place to keep you safe. Ignoring those procedures can put you at risk and cause more work for everyone else.

Never perform a task without proper training. It’s not uncommon for managers to place workers in front of a machine without proper training and expect them to perform their job, but it is up to the worker, for the sake of their health and life, to not work on equipment that they haven’t been properly trained for. The consequences could be serious.

Keep Your Guard Up

Pinch-point conditions are also one of the most difficult hazards to guard against. Improperly guarded punch presses, oscillating or reciprocating parts, heavy steel doors, heavy covers, and belt conveyors can inflict serious injuries.

Many pinch-point injuries occur when a ma­chine is stopped temporarily for service or cleaning, so it’s extremely important to follow necessary procedures for lockout and tagout (LOTO). Workers can follow guard policies for when the machine is running, but when it’s stopped and the guard is removed, if the equip­ment is not de-energized, a worker is not safe.

A little thought will bring to mind the many pinch points in your workplace. Take some time to review your work station and those around you to see if there could be potential pinch-point dangers. You could spare an injury, even your own.

Hand Safety: Staying Focused on the Task at Hand

Handsafety_nov2011_webWhile many have trouble seeing job safety as a major concern at their office job, those working industrial, construction, or other blue collar jobs work with highly dangerous equipment see it every day. When spending time working with hazardous machinery, chemicals, or tools, accidents can and do happen, and they usually involve the hands. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hand injuries send more than one million workers to the emergency room each year.

Second to neglecting to wear protective equipment, a main cause of hand injuries is a lack of awareness.  Hand safety shouldn’t solely rely on proper glove use. One of the best and most effective means of hand protection is good hand position. To help keep your hands happy, here are some ways for you to stay focused on your job and keep an eye out for potential dangers you could be placing your hands in.

Ride Into the Danger Zone

Before working with potentially dangerous equipment, recognize the hazardous areas and develop a work practice to keep your hands away from the “danger zone.”  It’s an important preventative procedure to maintain an effective barrier between your hands and hazards when operating machinery.

When handling dangerous materials, try using tools like pliers to move or hold extremely hot or hazardous materials, determine if there are multiple energy sources on the same piece of equipment, or prepare for an unexpected slip or release when applying force.

Each tool and piece of equipment has its own danger zone that varies from model to model. Be sure to get with your manager and company Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to learn what areas are the most dangerous.

Offhanded Placement

Jobs and duties can get repetitive, especially in industrial or construction work, which makes it easier for workers to get complacent and less compliant with safety standards. When workers start taking their safety procedures for granted, the little mistakes slip by and cause huge accidents. Many times, hand injuries happen because workers were not paying attention to where their unused hand was placed.

No matter what your job is, it is important to stay focused and be alert when any hand is near dangerous equipment. You can avoid harmful situations by being aware of your danger zones and keeping the unused hand in sight. Try shifting your body weight occasionally if you find yourself leaning too much. Better posture can lead to longer periods of standing without fatigue, avoid long-term complications like tendinitis, and will help keep you safer when using dangerous machinery.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Having your task, hands, and tools within direct eyesight can help prevent hand injuries on the job. If you have to reach for something like a dropped tool or clogged machine part, make sure you can see where your hand is going to avoid getting your hand crushed or knocking over hazardous materials.

Keep in mind the area around you and check around your operating area for rough or sharp edges, kill-switches on machines, and maintain a clean and tidy workspace. This way, you can focus on your job and reduce the risk of grazing you hand on a sharp edge, tripping over something on the floor and catching your hand in a machine, or getting hit by a misplaced tool that gets caught in the machine.

Workers can become complacent when performing repetitive job duties and lose track of where their hands or bodies are placed. Gloves may protect you when an accident occurs, but being alert and aware of where your hands are helps prevent the accidents from happening. How does your company encourage hand safety?

When the Axe Attacks: Survive Being Laid Off

Survivefired_Nov2011_web“We’re letting you go” is one of the scariest and most feared phrases in the workplace. Losing your job can add more pressure and distress today because of the current economic uncertainty. It brings a sense of failure. No matter how hard you worked, they let you go anyway. You’re left with dozens of questions about what you did wrong and what you are going to do next. Sadly, each question might not have an answer in sight.

But life isn’t over, it’s a different chapter. Consider it a new beginning of your life with opportunity to find the work you enjoy, but it has to start with you. Here are some ways you can cope after receiving the pink slip and capitalize on your newly found freedom to turn it into opportunity.

Wait For it

The first few days after being laid off are crucial, which should be dedicated to cautiously observing your situation. What you say or do during those first few days can follow you throughout your job hunt. It’s ok to feel angry, afraid, and apologetic. It’s human nature and should be expressed with your closest friends, relatives, or counselor. But try to avoid jumping into the job search with a heightened sense of emotion.

It’s important to get vision and clarity in your life before chasing a new job. Start by setting some personal goals to achieve during your free time. Try running or walking in the morning, taking up a hobby like playing the guitar or knitting, or finishing a project you’ve put off because you were too busy with work.  Once cool and collected, you’ll have a better chance of communicating your intention to others instead of appearing to have a chip on your shoulder.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

When the dust has settled and you’ve got a better hold of yourself, take the time to review the most important factor of the separation: you. If you were given reasons why your performance or actions were not up to their standards, try researching and asking colleagues what some good practices are to improve the areas you are the weakest. This is a great place to start with how to become a better worker and employee. Taking the steps to improve will help you perform better in a job interview.

This is also a great opportunity to find out if your line of work is really want you want to be doing. Evaluating yourself can free you from a job where you felt used or underappreciated or wasn’t the best use of your talents. It can help you break out of an industry or company that offers no further growth prospects. You have a chance to explore new careers and fields, find a better-fitting job, or even start your own business.

Who are you? What do you really want to do? Why do you do what you do?

Option Oasis

Once your head has been cooled, you’ll be able to make good choices when options become available to you after you’ve been let go. You might have to talk to your previous employer about unemployment payments or health care extensions, but be nice. It would be in your best interest if you remained civil and calm when discussing these options with your previous employer. You’ll need as much help as you can get when figuring out expenses and other necessities while you search for other employment.

There are several options to consider when you’re ready to start looking for a new job. On top of regular networking, consider volunteering. Nonprofits are always looking for helping hands, and giving time will give you a great way to meet people and demonstrate your abilities. And you’ll be helping the community while you’re at it. There are also many ways staffing companies have helped temporary  and holiday jobs turn a foot in the door into full-time employment.

Losing your job can feel like an earth-shattering experience, but it’s ripe with opportunities if you stay smart, cool, and positive. It could be the chance you’ve been waiting for to change your life for the better. What are some ways you’ve coped after losing a job?